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The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) in the Wild and Captivity – Care Part 2

Click here to read the first part of The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) In the Wild and Captivity.

Social Groups and Compatible Species
Diamond DovesDiamond Doves get along well with most finch species, including canaries, but only when housed in large outdoor aviaries or rooms within homes. They are intolerant of other dove species. Although gregarious in the wild, captives do best when kept in pairs as opposed to groups.

Captive Longevity
Average longevity is 12-14 years, with some birds reaching their late teens. The longevity record is in the neighborhood of 21 years.

Diamond Doves take well to gentle handling, and birds kept singly often bond strongly to their owners…in males this can lead to incessant “courting attempts”. Training should take place in a small room. The dove should be encouraged to perch on one’s finger via gentle pressure against the breast – never grab and place a bird on your hand.

These birds are quite sociable by nature – the interactions among wild flocks approach the levels exhibited by parrots. A single bird will do fine if allowed frequent contact (out of the cage) with its owner. Females make better single pets, as males kept alone tend to be noisy. If you are away for most of the day, then a pair of doves should be kept – birds left alone all day rarely fare well.

Diamond Doves breed readily in captivity, and a pair cannot fail to delight you with their mutual preening and other interactions. They communicate with a wide variety of “cooing” sounds, and separated pairs emit a unique distress call until re-united.

Diamond Doves, especially captive-produced color strains, can be difficult to sex by appearance. Courting behavior is often more reliable. In general, naturally-colored males tend towards silver-gray in coloration, while females appear more brown-gray. The orange-red eye ring of the adult male measures 2-3 mm in width, while that of the females is 1 mm….surprisingly, this slight size difference is noticeable among birds perched closely together.

Diamond Doves lay 2 eggs, usually 1 day apart. Males incubate by day and females by night, but sometimes both share the nest. The eggs hatch in 13-15 days, and the nestlings fledge at day 12-15. Be sure to leave the young with their parents for at least 2 weeks after fledging, as they are fed “pigeon milk” during this period and only gradually learn to take seeds.

Basket nests are readily accepted. Doves do not build much of a nest, but be sure to provide a variety of straw and dried grass – some can be very picky as to nest material size and thickness!


You can read about some Diamond Dove relatives that are also kept as pets at:

Image referenced from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Golabek_diamentowy.jpg. Author M. Betley, under the GNU Free Documentation License.

The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) in the Wild and Captivity – Care Part I

Diamond DovesGeneral
This charming, canary-sized bird is an ideal choice for those drawn to doves but unable to meet the space requirements of Ring-Necks and other larger species.  Both wild and captive-bred strains are beautifully colored and possess a wide range of pleasing calls.  Diamond Doves tame easily and make responsive and affectionate pets, often bonding quite strongly to their owners.

Please see Diamond Dove Natural History for more information on these fascinating birds.

Enclosure and Physical Environment
Provide your doves with as much room as possible – the minimum cage size for a pair would be along the lines of the A & E Victorian Top Cage (28” x 15”).  If kept in a cage of this size, the doves should be let out for exercise on a regular basis.  Larger bird cages are preferable if you are not able to give your birds much free-flight time

Diamond Doves spend a good deal of time on the ground, and do best in a solid-bottomed cage.  Remove the bottom grate from your cage, as such will lead to foot problems.

The cage should be located in a draft-free room that receives a good deal of sunlight (but beware of over-heating).  Diamond Doves love to sunbathe, and will gather in sunlit spots with wings and tails fanned.

As window glass filters out the sun’s beneficial UVA and UVB rays, be sure to provide your doves with a full spectrum bird bulb (Please also see my article Providing the Proper Type and Amount of Light to Pet Birds).  These little doves are quite alert to their surroundings, and definitely enjoy looking out a window.

However calm your doves may be by day, they will likely respond frantically to unusual nighttime noises (this is true of most birds, but particularly so for doves).  If nocturnal disturbances are possible, leave a small bulb lit at night so that the birds will not crash into cage walls if startled.  R-Zilla’s Incandescent Nightlight and similar bulbs (designed for reptiles, and usually tinted red or blue) provide light and some heat but will not disturb the birds’ sleep cycle.

Diamond Doves are ideally suited to outdoor aviaries, and in such situations will display their full range of natural behaviors to best effect.

Heat and Humidity
Diamond Doves hail from harsh Australian environments, and are consequently quite hardy despite their fragile appearance.  Temperatures of 50-90 F are handled easily, and humidity is rarely a concern (if kept outdoors, however, they should be provided a dry shelter).  Drafts should be avoided.

Diamond Doves consume a varied diet in the wild and should be provided with the same in captivity.  Please bear in mind that doves swallow seeds whole, without cracking them – most commercial pigeon or dove foods (seed or pellets) will be too large for these little fellows to handle.

I suggest as a basic diet a mix consisting of 50% Pretty Bird Premium Food for Canaries and Finches and 50% white millet.  To this add a daily ration of pre-crushed Lefabre Premium Daily Pellet Diet for Parakeets, which will assist in their getting enough Vitamin D3 (especially important if the doves do not have access to unfiltered sunlight).  You can also offer some Goldenfeast Australian Blend, but some of the ingredients are bulky and will need to be crushed.

Diamond Doves will also enjoy picking at millet sprays  and sprouting grass sprout pot.  Finely grated sweet potatoes, carrots and various greens should also be provided.  Hard-boiled eggs (ground with shells) should be offered once or twice each week, especially to nesting females (this is not always taken).

Finch grit  must be available at all time – doves cannot grind ingested seed shells without it – and Avitron Liquid Vitamins should be added to the drinking water.

Check back next Monday for the rest of this article.

Image referenced from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Golabek_diamentowy.jpg. Author M. Betley, under the GNU Free Documentation License.


The Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) in the Wild and Captivity – Part I, Natural History

Diamond DovesLike many bird fanciers, I was long drawn to the quiet beauty and calm demeanors of the various doves, but held back due to the large flight cages required by most, and the relative delicacy of the smaller species.  That is, until I discovered the Diamond Dove.  Barely larger than a canary, this tiny beauty is also quite hardy and long-lived, and is an ideal introduction to the group.

Physical Description
Diamond Doves tip the scales at a mere 1.5 ounces, and measure 7 to 7.5 inches in length. Their pleasing, subtly-colored plumage displays a surprisingly wide range of colors and shades.  The head, breast and neck are clad in blue-gray, while the back is light brown.  The tail is dark gray with black-tipped mid feathers and white-tipped outer feathers.  The brownish gray upper wing is flecked with black-circled white spots, which lend the “diamond” to its name.  The lower wing is chestnut in color and the abdomen is creamy white.  The orange-red eye is encircled by a fire-red ring.

Range and Habitat
The enormous range covers much of northern and central Australia, with flocks moving to the southern and eastern coasts during particularly dry years.  They are usually seen in pairs or small groups, but large flocks form during Australia’s winter.

Diamond Doves favor open habitats within flying distance of water – sparsely wooded areas, grasslands and desert fringes, but sometimes occur in parks and gardens as well.

Grass seeds of various types form the majority of the diet, with ants and other tiny insects being taken on occasion.

Males choose the nest site and court females by cooing with the beak held to the ground while spreading the tail feathers.  They may also feed potential mates, and often puff their feathers and strut before females in the manner of the Rock Dove (our ubiquitous “city pigeon”).  Paired birds exchange greeting calls and mutual light pecks about the head, and both contribute to the construction of the flimsy grass and stick nest.

A clutch consists of 2 eggs, laid 1 day apart.  Both parents incubate the eggs – the female by night and the male by day.  The eggs hatch in 12-15 days, and the young fledge in 12 days to 2 weeks (often longer in captivity).

In common with their relatives, Diamond Doves feed their young with “pigeon milk” – a thick liquid derived from the lining of the crop.  Other than flamingoes, pigeons and doves are the only birds known to utilize such a food.

Diamond Doves are classified within the order Columbiformes and are members of the order’s sole surviving family, Columbidae – the pigeons and doves.  The order also contains the infamous Dodo and the Solitaires, all of which are now extinct.

Approximately 320 species of pigeon-like birds are distributed on all continents except Antarctica.  Two species, the Rock Dove and the Collared Dove, occur within the Arctic Circle.  The genus to which the Diamond Dove belongs contains 4 other species, all of which are small, long-tailed birds of arid, open habitats in Australia and Indonesia.

At nearly 6 pounds in weight and 3 feet in length, New Guinea’s magnificent Victoria Crowned Pigeon, Goura victoria, is the world’s largest.  I have kept and bred these massive blue birds at the Bronx Zoo, and found them to be both calm and very intelligent.  If you have a chance to visit a zoo that houses Victoria Crowned Pigeons, please do – you will not soon forget the experience.  The Common Ground Dove, Columbina passerina, just barely wins out over the Diamond Dove as the smallest.  Measuring 6.7 inches long at weighing in at 1 ounce, it ranges from the southern USA to Brazil.

While a number of pigeons are specialized fruit-eaters, most feed upon seeds and grain.  Seeds are not cracked but rather swallowed whole and ground up with the help of stones and other grit in the muscular gizzard.  Unlike most birds, pigeons and doves drink by immersing their bills in water and sucking.

Next time we’ll take a look at keeping Diamond Doves as pets.

You can read more about the natural history of pigeons and doves at:

Image referenced from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Golabek_diamentowy.jpg. Author M. Betley, under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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